Game Review – 12/23/08 (DAL at TOR)

by Chelsea

Game:

Both the Leafs and the Stars had seen improvement in the recent stretch of games, and despite goaltender struggles, and both looked to continue building that success.

Playing in Toronto was a bit of a homecoming for a handful of Stars players. Trevor Daley grew up there. James Neal hails from nearby Whitby and Krys Barch from nearby Hamilton.

The starting group for Dallas featured both Neal and Daley, a bit of a gift from head coach Dave Tippett. Neal was on the top line with Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, and Daley was paired up with Stephane Robidas. Marty Turco started in net.

An early fight between Krys Barch and Andre Deveaux, only 2:51 into the game, set the energy level for the Dallas Stars. Clearly, Deveaux was prepared for Barch, reverse-jerseying him to steal the win, but it hardly worked to discourage the feisty enforcer, who would show up later for round two.

While they each took their five minutes, James Neal opened the scoring when he stole Daley’s rebound from Vesa Toskala with his skate as he crashed the crease and kicked it up to his stick. Before Toskala could react, the puck had been tossed behind him and into the net, putting the Leafs down at a very fixable 1-0.

That clarification is important, because it wasn’t really all that fixable for long.

The goal came at 3:23, with assists from Trevor Daley and Jere Lehtinen.

The next goal came only five minutes later.

This time it was Steve Ott to light the lamp, at 8:55. He’d camped out in the crease, apparently invisible to Toskala, who moved out of his way to cover a possible Ribeiro shot. Ribeiro passed it to Ott instead, who threw it in a fairly open net.

The Leafs just continued to fall apart from there.

A handful of hits and giveaways led to Fabian Brunnstrom demonstrating the power of an impressive solo effort.

At 10:45, he forced his way to the front of the net after collecting a dropped pass from Ott, protecting the puck with his leg as he swept through the offensive zone. Brunnstrom crashed the net, flying across the crease and flinging the puck in behind Toskala.

The assists went to Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas.

Ott, absolutely on fire, drew a roughing penalty from Deveaux at 13:38 after he declined a fight (due to his healing hand) and turned around and laid out one of his teammates. The Stars went on power play for the first time in the game.

During the PP, Stephane Robidas and Brad Richards manned the points, passing the puck back and forth looking for a shooting lane. Richards found one, releasing a slap shot too fast for Toskala to get a piece of.

Mike Modano got the second assist.

Mikhail Grabovski took two minutes for elbowing at 15:21, but the score remained the same, and the rest of the period went by without incident. Dallas went into the first intermission up 4-0.

Second period.

If you thought the Leafs would get an earful during intermission and come back on fire, you were wrong.

It only took 3:45 into the second period for the Stars to continue their goal-scoring onslaught.

This time it was thanks to the perseverance of Krys Barch, down on his knees in front of the opposing crease, as he forced the puck into the net around a sprawled Toskala.

He was assisted by Landon Wilson and Trevor Daley.

The game continued uneventfully for seven minutes, the pace appearing to slowly move in favor of the Leafs. However, that wasn’t actually the case.

Despite being up by five goals at this point, the Stars went on the attack again halfway through the second. This one came from Mike Ribeiro, with a goal very similar to Ott’s; he camped out in the slot, and waited for a pass to catch Toskala out of position. He was assisted by Wilson and Niskanen.

As if being down 6-0 wasn’t bad enough (or enough like being in a real live video game), the Stars scored again barely a minute later.

It was James Neal again.

Toskala, poorly recovering from a save, was not even close to being able to stop Neal as he shoveled the loose rebound into the net. Grossman and Lehtinen got the assists.

At this point, Toskala was pulled and replaced by Curtis Joseph.

The Leafs finally regained their footing after this goal, and I say finally because it was getting really pathetic for them and the pity was ruining the excitement of winning a game by 7 goals.

It was Toronto who scored the last goal of the period, with a fast shot from Jason Blake that beat Turco on the glove side.

Dominic Moore and Tomas Kaberle got the assists.

Second period ended. Razor asked Neal during intermission if he considered a hat trick when he already had two goals, and Neal admitted that he was in fact thinking about it.

Third period started.

The Leafs, sorta determined to try and climb out of a 7-1 hole and gaining a little momentum off discovering that Marty Turco was not in fact a solid wall, came out with energy similar to what they showed at the beginning of the first period.

And by that, we mean violent energy.

This time it was only 1:57 in when Deveaux and Barch dropped the gloves for another round.

Barch was better prepared, despite basically getting mugged at the beginning of the fight, and ended up forcing Deveaux to call for the refs to break it up. Even then, Barch wouldn’t let go. Nice rematch there.

James Neal took two minutes for hooking at 3:14.

Midway through the third, the Leafs managed to score their second and final goal, with a nice play from Deveaux and Stempniak to set up Mikhail Grabovski.

A small incident at 11:30 left Steve Ott and Pavel Kubina each with minor penalties (roughing and hi-sticking).

At 17:20, Jonas Frogren got two minutes for holding, setting up a very determined James Neal with a perfect opportunity for getting that third goal.

You could see the other Stars trying to help Neal get his hat trick, occasionally force-feeding him the puck instead of taking the shot themselves.

He finally went for it, rushing in and trying a shot from the upper part of the faceoff circle to Joseph’s right. It went in, and at 18:34 in the third, James Neal got his first career hat trick.

Andrew Hutchinson and Marty Turco assisted.

The game ended as an 8-2 blowout in favor of the Stars.

Notes:

  • The three game stars, in order: Neal, Robidas, Daley
  • Neal and Daley each took their game star twirls on the ice after the game for their hometown fans.
  • Turco stopped 20 of 22 shots for a .909 sv%
  • This game was the debut of Brian Sutherby, acquired from the Ducks.
  • Neal’s hat trick came on the 10th anniversary of Mike Modano’s fifth career hat trick, which also happened in Toronto against the Leafs.
  • Fabian Brunnstrom’s goal turned out to be the game winner, his 4th of the season.
  • 15 Stars had points in the game, including 8 players with a multi-point night.
  • Conclusion: It was a great start to the holidays, an unfortunate loss for the Leafs, and overall a much-needed boost in points, stats, and confidence.

SHR +/-:

Nicklas Grossman: two for the assist but minus-one for the negative +/-: +1
Stephane Robidas: two for each assist and one for leading the team in +/-: +5
Matt Niskanen: two for the assist; +2
Trevor Daley: two for each assist and one for leading the team in blocked shots; +5
Mike Modano: two for the assist; +2
Krys Barch: three for the goal, one for each fight, and one for leading the team in hits; +6
James Neal: three for each goal, one for determination, and one for leading the team in SOG; +11
Brian Sutherby: one for a solid debut; +1
Landon Wilson: two for each assist; +4
Jere Lehtinen: two for each assist; +4
Andrew Hutchinson: two for the assist; +2
Steve Ott: three for the goal, two for the assist, and two for being a fired-up ball of energy for the entire game; +7
Marty Turco: two for the assist and two for a good game; +4
Mike Ribeiro: three for the goal and two for the assist; +5
Brad Richards: three for the goal; +3
Fabian Brunnstrom: three for the goal and two for the assist; +5

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